Captain Kirk knew nothing about discovering space

Thursday , November 09, 2017 - 4:00 AM2 comments

D. LOUISE BROWN, special to the Standard-Examiner

I stare at the pile of summertime stuff piled on the ground around me, then into the dim interior of my small outside storage shed. I know it fits because I’m the one who took it out at the beginning of summer. But now as a chilly wind descends, dried leaves chatter across my lawn, and snow dusts the mountaintops, I wonder how I’m going to make all this stuff fit into that small space. Then somewhere in my mind I hear William Shatner’s voice as James T. Kirk muse, “Space. The final frontier….”

Very funny, Captain Kirk.

What do you know about space? I’ve watched you standing on that commodious bridge of the Starship Enterprise chatting with aliens, charting new courses and barking orders. Your crew members took up their respective spaces on your bridge, but you clearly owned it. Everywhere you strolled on your infinitely endless spaceship there was always another hallway curving away, another room behind another sliding door, another place of more and more space. You probably never once tried to squeeze one more box of cereal in a small kitchen cupboard, stuff one more shirt in a drawer, or find a place for a mega-pack of diapers.

Much less packed a storage shed.

This annual filling of my shed is like a complicated game of Tetris where I have to drop each thing into its specific spot or the door won’t close. The picnic table folds up at the back, then the grill rolls in alongside the bicycles, add the garden tools, the lawn mower, the kids’ pool, the leaf blower, the bucket of sand pile toys, the chair pads, the croquet and badminton sets, the porch pots, and all those other dozens of things that I think I need … and the door does not close. So it’s move this here and stack that there, and finally after a couple of shuffles the door closes — barely — leaving me with the uncomfortable realization that if I buy one more chair pad, I’m going to have to jettison something. Which isn’t such a bad idea.

This taming of space reminds me that less stuff would mean more space. Do we really need all those coats in the hall closet? Why do we have 14 inner tubes in the basement when no one ever needs more than five to go sledding? Do I really need all those socks? Why do we own hundreds of canning jars when only two people are left in my household? Why do I have six tubs of Christmas décor when just one tub for every other holiday is sufficient? And seriously, why do we still have dozens of cases of red winter wheat in the fruit room?

Our space needs change as we grow older. We once needed enough space to allow us and our kids to fan out and breathe, come together when we wanted, then fan out again. One by one the kids left, and the space they no longer filled felt so empty — almost like a vacuum. But over time that faded and those of us remaining filled it up. Then another left, then another, until just two of us rattle around in this place, never filling it. Our space needs will change again when just one of us is left to rattle around here.

The final space we own is a box just large enough to hold our remains; nothing else in that space. When we move on, we take nothing with us. We come into the world naked and leave the same way, draped in clothing put on us for the sake of those around us.

Shoving the storage shed door shut, I ponder Captain Kirk’s space concept. He wasn’t talking about cupboard space — his expansive thoughts were about the infinite space beyond his ship. And in that thought, he was right. We’ve barely begun to explore that outer space.

But in our day-to-day living, we strive to discover more inner space. We search for larger living areas, higher ceilings, roomier cars, more commodious closets, bigger classrooms, vaster malls, and expanded offices, convinced that more area means a better living experience.

Still, less space does have its place. In our first home, a small space for six people, we built more bedrooms as the kids came along. The last bedroom was built in a small, leftover corner of the basement. It was barely large enough to change your mind in. Yet it was the kids’ favorite. It was the coziest nook in the house, and everyone wanted that snug little place.

So Captain Kirk, consider this: Space’s final frontier may well be a strange, new, compact world we haven’t yet explored.

D. Louise Brown lives in Layton.

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